First Ulster County Dispensary “Big Gas” Opens

Photo Courtesy of Michael Erkan

On April 17, New York State’s 100th and Ulster County’s first licensed cannabis dispensary, Big Gas Dispensary, opened its doors to the public in its new permanent location, the former New Paltz Stewart’s Shops gas station site.

Community members gathered inside the store for the highly anticipated event, with New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers and County Executive Jen Metzger making supportive appearances.

“This is huge for New Paltz,” said Justin Salsberg, a New Paltz local and recreational cannabis user. “Having it here locally just makes sense.”

Originally founded in 2023, Big Gas has been operating for the past year exclusively as a cannabis delivery service in the Hudson Valley, with the ultimate goal of opening an in-person location. Owners Zymia Lewis and Kareem Haynesworth are residents of Middletown but chose New Paltz for the location of their dispensary due to their perception of New Paltz being “cannabis-friendly.” 

The opening of a cannabis retailer in the New Paltz area has been years in the making. Despite New York State legalizing adult-use cannabis on March 31, 2021, nearly two years passed before the first licensed retail dispensary opened in New York City on Jan. 24, 2023. 

Since then, more and more retail dispensaries have been receiving their licenses and opening across the state — a process that would likely be more expedited if it weren’t for the competitive application procedures and staggered license approvals from the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. 

During the wait for dispensaries, a common practice done by retail businesses has been under-the-table sales. While convenient to consumers, under-the-table sales mirror issues that exist with street cannabis dealers, particularly customers having no guarantee of the quality, origin or potency of the product they buy. 

Illegal cannabis was seized from multiple local New Paltz businesses this past April, just before the opening of Big Gas. 

The transparency and standards that come with dispensaries like Big Gas are one of the biggest appeals to government-regulated cannabis. “You have to know what you’re putting in your body,” said Salsberg. “The fact that these guys have labels that clearly mark everything … that’s wonderful.” 

Despite Big Gas being the first brick-and-mortar dispensary in the area, New Paltz’s first opportunity for legal recreational cannabis sales arrived this past summer with the introduction of the Cannabis Growers Showcase (CGS). 

The CGS was a state-approved event, functioning as a farmers market exclusively for cannabis products, which took place between August and December of 2023, and again briefly this past March in New Paltz’s Village Hall. Although hindered by rigid guidelines, like a required ratio of one dispensary stand for every three farmer stands, the CGS ended in 2023 as a success, making $4.8 million in total sales. The showcase was advertised as a temporary solution to the lack of a permanent dispensary in the area — an issue that Big Gas has solved. 

Big Gas sells a wide variety of cannabis products, including flower, prerolls, vapes, concentrates, edibles, topicals, beverages and tinctures, and is open seven days a week. 

In addition to the in-person location, Big Gas also maintains its delivery service, which is available through its website,

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